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Ear to the Ground

Experts Warn of Global Warming ‘Tipping Point’

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Posted on Jan 30, 2006
From the BBC

Scientists are warning that global warming may be accelerating at a frightening pace.

Washington Post: Now that most scientists agree human activity is causing Earth to warm, the central debate has shifted to whether climate change is progressing so rapidly that, within decades, humans may be helpless to slow or reverse the trend.

This “tipping point” scenario has begun to consume many prominent researchers in the United States and abroad, because the answer could determine how drastically countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. While scientists remain uncertain when such a point might occur, many say it is urgent that policymakers cut global carbon dioxide emissions in half over the next 50 years or risk the triggering of changes that would be irreversible. | story

AP: LONDON - The threat posed by climate change may be greater than previously thought, and global warming is advancing at an unsustainable rate, Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a report published Monday.

The government-commissioned report collates evidence presented at a conference on climate change hosted by Britain’s Meteorological Office last year. It says scientists now have “greater clarity and reduced uncertainty” about the impacts of climate change. | story

Earlier from the NY Times: The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists. | story

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By Ruth Phillips, February 7, 2006 at 8:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I read your article on global waring,and I think you have some strong points there. I need your help on my debate on global warming. the question is do you think global warming is a nature process or do you think it is a human causing it? what do you think. you ned to support it with evidence from a very importance source.
thanks please get back to ASAP

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By Brad Arnold, January 31, 2006 at 3:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Caps on CO2 emissions don’t work

Spain’s emissions in 2003 were up by nearly 42% on 1990 levels; Portugal’s by 37%; Greece’s and Ireland’s by 26%; and Canada has increased its emissions by more than 24% in that period. Under the Kyoto rules, if signatories overshoot, they will have to make both the promised cuts and 30 per cent more in a second period from 2013!  That is obviously unrealistic.

The International Energy Agency says if governments stick with current policies, global energy needs and carbon emissions will be 50 percent higher in 2030 than 2005.

Furthermore, the thawing of permafrost will lead to greenhouse gas emissions at levels beyond those produced by the combustion of fossil fuels. New simulations from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) show that over half will thaw by 2050 and as much as 90 percent by 2100.

Yet, the effects of increased environmental CO2 levels are catastrophic.

Therefore, the only solution is to remove the CO2 from the environment after it is emitted.

If we can’t reasonably stop our carbon dioxide discharges or prepare for the consequences of global warming, I suggest we engage in environmental engineering to remove the excess carbon dioxide.

There are many forms of life on earth that naturally perform this task, but we are overwhelming their ability to cope.

I submit that the only reasonable course of action is to improve by about ten times the ability of nature to remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and oceans. Biotechnology must be used to design genetically modified organisms that we will seed into the environment.

I am confident that biotechnology can be used to improve the rate at which organisms fix carbon (i.e. remove CO2 from the environment).

In other words, removing the CO2 biologically is much more promising than removing it mechanically.  Since removing the CO2 from the environment after emission is the only solution (per my previous paper), biological removal is the method I would recommend advocating and researching.

My personal vision is of a simple organism that multiplies in the ocean, and that precipitates grains of carbon that settle on the ocean bottom.

More concrete, this is a passage from one of the articles I linked to from the Guardian:

“Plankton are as important as plants and trees in the take-up of carbon. Scientists estimate that about half the 800 billion tonnes of CO2 put into the atmosphere by mankind since the start of the industrial revolution has been soaked up by the sea. Much of the carbon is fixed in the shells of creatures called coccolithphores, the tiny plankton whose bodies make up the white cliffs of Dover. They live on the ocean surface in trillions and when they die their shells sink to the bottom taking the carbon with them.”

For example, there is no reason why coccolithphores couldn’t be “improved” using genetic engineering.  They could be made more prolific, or grow shells faster or that are larger.
 
Basically, a bioengineer should start with a genetic template, and then modify it (easier said than done).  The trick is probably not engineering promising GMOs, but evaluating their environmental impact.  Obviously, releasing a GMO into the environment is risky, but must be evaluated against the known risk of high levels of environmental CO2.

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By M Henri Day, January 31, 2006 at 2:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I suspect that Bush & Co’s attempts to censor Dr Hansen will, alas, be far more successful than their attempts to censor Nature (or in their parlance, God). Those who will bear the consequences are people living in places like Kiribati, soon to be inundated by rising sea water levels, or, like myself, in Stockholm, which might just become too cold for comfort if (when ?) the Atlantic thermohaline circulation grinds to a halt. Unfortunately, we are not enfranchised to vote on Mr Bush’s climate (lack of) policy. No warming without representation, anyone ?...

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